LD Sean Burke and Upstaging launch the Jennifer Lopez tour with VARI-LITE luminaires
Published Thursday, August 16, 2012
by Philips Vari-Lite

As a dancer, actress, music artist, producer, and fashion designer, Jennifer Lopez has sold over 55 million records worldwide. With a celebrated career spanning over 17 years, she has taken on many challenges in many different industries, except for one. With the launch of her 2012 World Tour, Lopez is embarking on her first headlining live tour and behind the scenes lighting designer and programmer Sean Burke has created an energetic and dramatic lighting design using VARI-LITE VL3500 Wash FX and VL3000 Spot luminaires provided by Upstaging.

“This is the first live tour for Jennifer so director Jamie King brought everyone into the process very early,” began Burke. “It was very interesting to watch as he took the production from a normal touring show to quite an extravaganza in terms of the dancers, choreography and all the things that he brings to the table. His take on the production went from something pretty simple at first into something dramatic in the end, so we knew we would need to match that drama with the lighting.”

As the production meetings began, Burke realized that he would have to approach the layout of his design a bit differently as the show became filled with dancers, choreography, and small vignettes that would be spread across the large stage measuring 62’ wide x 48’ deep, filled with a backdrop of powerful LED video screens. Additionally, there is a 60’ catwalk that has a 16’ x 16’ B-Stage at the end used for scene changes between the vignettes, so when adding all this together, Burke knew that the power of the video walls and long throw distances would be a significant challenge.

“There is a large amount of video on this tour and you always go back to the problem of matching the intensity with the lights, and how you try to marry the two. I get involved in a lot of the video content creation these days and I have learned over the years that you can make it very difficult for yourself by trying to fight the video wall. You have to find ways to either come around the side of it, the bottom of it, or come over the top. You have to seriously think about where you are going to put the fixtures because you can’t just hang them in the anywhere anymore, but the main component for success is that the fixtures have to be powerful.”

Searching for the ideal lights for his design, Burke turned to Authorized VARI-LITE Dealer Upstaging who provided him with 80 VL3500 Wash FX and 74 VL3000 Spot luminaires.

Burke added, “I love dealing with Upstaging because they are a fantastic company with a great crew and I really can’t say enough about them. Lighting Crew Chief Ken Burns has been a fantastic help in putting the tour together. He reacts very quickly to changes that may need to be made and was very instrumental in our success.”

As the tech rehearsals got underway, Burke had his first chance to see the lights in action. Knowing that throw distances and intensity would be key to making the design fully come together, that is exactly what the VARI-LITE luminaires provided.

“The lighting workhorses for this show are definitely the wash lights. I have been using the VL3500 Wash fixtures for a while now and I really like them. To me they are an extremely flexible fixture and they are doing something that really no other light on the market can do. It’s the perfect weapon to combat high-powered video walls, but now when you add in the FX unit you get two bangs for your buck. Now you have the ability to use gobo patterns in addition to a really wide wash that’s incredibly bright and can zoom down into a pencil beam. It’s an incredible fixture.”

Not able to simply rely upon wash lights to make his design complete, Burke also needed a powerful spot luminaire to act as its complement, and that’s how we used the VL3000 Spot luminaires.

“The VL3000 Spots are great fixtures that are completely versatile. In terms of a spot unit being big and bright, that can go from a narrow beam to a wide beam, with consistent and smooth operation; the VL3000 Spot is a perfect complement to the VL3500 Wash FX. Plus, it makes it easier on the crew when all the lights in the rig are consistent. Given that the VL3500 Wash FX and VL3000 Spot do everything needed for this show, there was no need to mix them up with other fixtures.”

Currently scheduled to close in the United Arab Emirates in November 2012, Burke and the tour will cross many international borders with many surprises along the way. But with his design powered by VARI-LITE luminaires, the performance of his rig is not a concern at all.

Burke concluded, “In the end it all came together quite well. Every once in awhile you come across a fixture that is a leap in technology and the VL3500 Wash FX is that light. Choosing VARI-LITE luminaires really brought this lighting design together, and to do the job that I had to do, the VL3500 Wash FX and VL3000 Spot luminaires work perfect.”

To read the LIGHTING TODAY MAGAZINE feature on the design of Sean Burke for the Jennifer Lopez tour, click here.

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